July 17, 2008
SAD 63 Towns Consider Ways to Retain Properties
By NOK-NOI RICKER; OF THE NEWS STAFF
HOLDEN - Town and school leaders are discussing how to protect school-owned properties once the SAD 63 system is absorbed into a regional school unit, while the deadline for the state-mandated consolidation is fast approaching.
Town Council members were given an update on the talks during their meeting Monday, and another meeting of the joint town-school group is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today at Eddington Town Hall.
"What we're trying to do ... [is] set it up so the RSU cannot lay claim to" school property if the schools close, said John Bryant, council chairman. "If [a school] closes, we're trying to get prepared for what we'd do. If they continue to run, it's a nonissue."
SAD 63, which comprises Holden, Eddington and Clifton, owns Holden Elementary School, Eddington Elementary School and Holbrook Middle School in Holden.
Under the new school consolidation law, the three SAD 63 communities are working to become part of RSU 15, made up of Brewer, Orrington, Dedham and possibly the Airline communities of CSD 8.
CSD 8, which comprises Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn, is still trying to decide whether to join with RSU 15, Ellsworth or School Union 92, which consists of Otis, Mariaville, Eastbrook, Waltham, Hancock, Lamoine, Trenton and Surry.
At first, all school property was to be turned over to the newly created reorganized school units, but recent changes in the law allow more local control.
The local committee has determined that if the elementary schools close, it would like the properties to be turned over to their respective communities.
The middle school is a different situation because the district's three communities all share in the costs to operate it and have ownership, Bryant said.
Selling that property and splitting the revenues by one-third among the three communities is one option. Another is proportional revenue returns based on a percentage of each town's annual contribution.
When polled, town councilors Monday said they would prefer the proportional split, which would give Holden about 50 percent of the return. On average, Eddington contributes around 33 percent and Clifton contributes the remaining 17 percent to run the school, officials said.
How that split would be handled will be discussed tonight, Bryant said, stressing that there have been no talks about closing any of the schools during the RSU 15 meetings.
Work already has been started to separate town-used property, such as the town hall and public safety buildings, from the school- owned land on the Main Road.
Questions remain on what to do with publicly used Holden Trail system behind Holden Elementary School and the gazebo and new Holden veterans' memorial in front of the school.
The original law required communities to vote on joining the new school units in June or November, but that has been changed to Jan. 30, 2009. However, each RSU's reorganization plan must be submitted to the state by Dec. 15 to allow for public hearings to be held in December and early January before the "thumbs up or thumbs down" vote.
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